At long last, some semblance of sanity is coming to Big 10 football, at least when it comes to it’s divisions. As was first rumored earlier this spring, starting in 2014, the Big 10 will split its football divisions into East and West. Penn State will join Rutgers, Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana in the Eastern Division, while Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois will make up the Western Division. That timing of course coincides with the arrival of Rutgers and Maryland. Two years later in 2016, the league will add a 9th conference game as well.
First things first, thank God the league realized the ridiculousness of the Legends and Leaders alignment and was open to change. At first glance, this new alignment may not appear to be the best in terms of competitive balance, but those things have a way of changing. It was not all that long ago the SEC East was considered vastly superior to the West, but that has all changed. It wasn’t all that long ago that Michigan had a 3 year span sub .500 and we all know Penn State’s struggles of the early 2000′s. My point is simply that things change, and quickly. While it would seem traditional powers like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State will remain at or near the top, history has certainly shown that would be the cast every season, and the balance of power can and will shift
The league also approved several schedule changes, notably adding a 9th conference game beginning in 2016. Additionally, the protected crossover games will be a thing of the past, with the exception of Indiana-Purdue. That will mean the end of the short-lived Penn State-Nebraska annual matchup. However, Delany did make a point that early on, the league will schedule in such a way that the perennial powers in each division play more often. It is obviously important to the fans, but as the league gets ready to negotiate a new TV rights deal, more high profile games give the networks better content. Finally, the league adopted a scheduling model that calls for each team to play 1 game every season against another major FBS conference program, and eliminate games against FCS schools. It is the hope that all schools will be abiding by that by 2016, although there is no set timetable, given existing contractual obligations.
While losing Nebraska as an annual game is not great, I’m loving the fact that Penn State is FINALLY going to be playing Michigan every season, as it should be. PSU and Michigan are two of the most tradition rich programs in the country, and as a fan of college football, it’s hard not to get excited about that. The other aspect that has me excited is getting away from these FCS opponents. Those games added absolutely nothing, other than an additional reason to laugh at Pitt. I’ll hold my breath on the major FBS conference opponents until we see who those will be. While a PSU playing an ACC team every year sounds great on paper, until it’s not Virginia or Syracuse, I’m not going to get too excited.
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